Miss Bala Reviews

Page 1 of 10
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
April 5, 2012
Miss Bala (Mexico's foreign film entry for 2011) is an unwavering, startling, and deeply tense movie about one woman's tragic and unwilling association with a powerful drug cartel. Laura (Stephanie Sigman) wants to be the next Miss Baja California, but she's unwittingly pulled into a life of crime after she witnesses a gang hit. The cartel ensures that Laura wins the beauty pageant and becomes a courier for them. The movie takes a Lars von Trier approach to storytelling, putting its heroine through a torture chamber of anxiety and terror. This woman only wants to escape the hell she has accidentally found herself a part of, but every attempt to escape, be it going to the police or confessing assassination plots to the intended targets, gets her corralled back into the fray. For Laura, there is no escape. The movie packs a near-constant surge of paranoia, as we fear that at any time something awful will happen. In fact it's usually only a matter of time. Laura is more a symbol of the collateral damage of Mexico's billion-dollar drug war than a character, and she kind of becomes a numb zombie by the movie's latter half, perhaps accepting her doomed fate. Director Gerado Naranjo favors long unwinding takes and handheld cameras, which add a gritty realism and sense of compounding dread to the picture. The movie has an unflinching level of realism to it that makes it all the more haunting, stripping the romanticism from a life of crime. Much like Italy's heralded crime film Gomorrah, this bleak but impassioned movie shows the inescapable tentacles of organized crime and gives a face to innocents caught in the middle. Miss Bala is a testament to the hidden toll of a nation at war with itself.

Nate's Grade: B+
Super Reviewer
½ January 30, 2012
In "Miss Bala," Laura(Stephanie Sigman), a 23-year old shop girl, and her friend Suzu(Lakshmi Picazo) sign up for a beauty pageant, Miss Baja California. That night instead of shopping for a dress, Suzu drags her friend along to a nightclub. Bored, Laura wanders off where she is found by a gunman who asks her questions about who is inside, gives her a little money and tells her to get lost. Well, not before Laura can get Suzu out but they become separated once the shooting starts and Laura makes it to safety out a window. The following morning Suzu is still missing and Laura does the sensible thing in going to a policeman. But instead of taking her to a police station, he takes her to Lino(Noe Hernandez), the criminal leader, who asks her what she knows before inquiring if she can drive a car.

There are statistics given at the end of "Miss Bala" about how many people have died in the drug wars in northern Mexico. Now, using a beauty pageant may seem like a screwy way at first to get there but according to the literature, a beauty queen is supposed to represent her subjects and Laura does, if you mean her subjects include those trapped in between the authorities and the criminals. The movie is on neither side, as it paints the authorities as corrupt and in cold blooded fashion Lino lets the DEA know that they are not welcome in Mexico. All of which is seen through Laura's eyes as she provides a ground level view of what goes on around her for the viewer, as she becomes little more than a commodity to the criminals with her body(notice how it is described, by the way) used and abused, with little choice in her actions. Even with large amounts of money on the table, she is not really tempted, either, with the exception of a scene in an upscale dress shop. The most important lesson in all of this is to always listen to your parents.
Super Reviewer
February 2, 2012
I could swear that I had already reviewed this piece but Flixster still has it on my "want to see" list so here we go again. With shades of Traffic and Maria Full of Grace, we have Miss Bala which has similar storylines. Perhaps it is unnecessary to get into themes so richly covered by those previous films but Miss Bala gives us the unique, and possibly true, angle of the beauty queen working for criminals. It works out nicely.
Super Reviewer
October 5, 2011
What I like most is that the audience possess the exact same amount of information as the central character does from beginning to end, which gives the film an uneasy spontaneous energy that keeps you transfixed on the action. It pushes the limits of credibility at several points, but that doesn't hurt the film enough to be a serious problem. As a thriller its quite nerve wracking and as a metaphor for how innocent Mexican citizens are used as pawns in the drug war between the various gangs and the DEA its effective.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2011
With tons of long take tracking shots and a subtle performance from Stephanie Sigman, Miss Bala displays the height of a war between a Mexican gang and the authorities through the docile eyes of a wanna-be beauty queen. There is a deep seeded humor in this film, which escalates throughout the film. Had there been better casting, this film could have been exceptional.
Super Reviewer
½ January 18, 2012
The film holds a good story, but the set pieces are conventional, and the cinematography can be pretty messy at times. The political ideals that the film takes grasp on aren't very familiar to a widespread audience, and the movie never seems to make it clear as to what is going on in this country. There's war. A lot of countries are at war. Plus, the concluding predicament of our character is rather empty and almost not believable. I was rather skeptical about the whole approach, and wondering if this was a character study, given the films attention to her mental state after the gang wars and whatnot, or a call out to others, expressing the violence of the area. The themes seem muddled, and I guess it could be both, but as far as story-telling and filmmaking goes, it's a foreign matinee.
Super Reviewer
October 29, 2011
Review soon.
Super Reviewer
March 21, 2012
I could not rate Miss Bala higher because for me the film started to show some real character development problems in its late half period. The film was quite watchable but not deep. Laura was an ordinary Mexican girl who wanted to participate in the beauty pageant Miss Baja Mexico. Unfortunately, she got herself in the middle of a drug cartel war where she was taken as hostage and was forced to participate in their illegal activities.Laura's personality failed, because despite several good opportunities, she never made an effort to escape.Her character was dead, as I was wondering what the heck was wrong with her? Was she in shock or a Zombie or was she just stupid? Maybe her motivation to do as she's told came from her desire to protect her family from these animals? But it was never showed that she was being threatened in that way. The film did send a powerful a message of despair and showed a society of some stupid puppets ruled by criminals and corrupt officials with no way out.
February 4, 2013
Worth seeing for its gorgeous use of camera movement alone. A slow brewing, haunting thriller that comes close to pure brilliance but is hampered by a somewhat muddled story.
June 3, 2012
Remember the name Gerardo Naranjo, the director and co-writer of Miss Bala, a harrowing and terrifying look in the world of beauty contests, one that leads to horror. Model-turned-actress Stephanie Sigman stars as Laura Guerrero and she is dynamite as a restless teen who abandons her family and heads to Tijuana to try out for the title of Miss Baja California. Laura makes the first cut and so parties it up at club that quickly devolves into a violent shootout between American DEA agents and a gang of drug lords. Laura is recruited as an accomplice by gang leader Lino (Noe Hernandez), beginning her descent into corruption, a world where no one comes out clean, even though Lino arranges for Laura to win the contest. Sigman meets every challenge afforded her in the complex role, and turns in a blazing performance, and Naranjo, has major gifts for staging action that doesn't obliterate character. Miss Bala, which translates to Miss Bullet cuts deep.
½ May 16, 2012
An allegory for the experience of a Mexican citizen in the modern narco-Mexican world, a Mexican citizen who is a prisoner to and a passenger on a voyage of violence, crime, imprisonment, and some technically consensual but still coerced sex. The protagonist is so passive and has so little control of anything that happens to her (honestly almost everything she does after the first act has no impact on any of the subsequent outcomes in her story) that this movie is almost like a horrible ride, intentionally so. Excellent at showing and not telling, it's pretty light on exposition. But it was too severe, too dire, an unrelenting horror, which made it perhaps a more powerful statement, but unfortunately less awesome movie. But very good and worth seeing. The lead did well portraying a stoic fatalism.
June 27, 2015
bit boring. all good except the story line. work of director is a week link in this movie
May 27, 2015
Gerardo Naranjo away from what impressed us with Drama / Mex narrative within the daily tragedies. It presents a film that never takes its way, in empty moments, at times do not find that connection with the protagonist, seems what suffering is only her and never viewer.
½ June 17, 2014
The movie is done well but it fails to make you care about the character. I was bored throughout watching this movie.
March 3, 2012
Mexican drug war film story that's very eloquently crafted. It's perfectly paced with the threat of anxiety throughout. 9/10
November 6, 2013
Eerie, unforgiving, unflinching and powerful. A tense, beautifully shot film thats gives a belabouring look at Mexico's drug cartels. Sigman excels as our beauty queen unwittingly dragged into a complex and dark world.
½ August 21, 2013
Kind of tense but only because the main character is stupid. Great shots but ultimately not interesting enough to keep you engaged beyond the boredom of why things are actually happening. I was questioning the lead character's actions the whole movie. Not realistic and sadly kind of boring.
½ June 30, 2013
2012 is certainly off to a rousing start. First PARIAH and now MISS BALA a staggering film about the cost of Mexico's drug war on the innocent. Abused by the drug lords and exploited by the government and the police, Mexico's citizenry is paying the real cost of the war on drugs. MISS BALA is the perfect metaphor for a people. Superbly acted, directed, and scored, go see MISS BALA now!
May 9, 2013
it was legit! I didn't even mind reading subtitles!
April 14, 2013
A regional beauty pageant contestant becomes, through sheer happenstance, a pawn in the Mexican drug wars. By staying with her point of view, the film very effectively conveys the helplessness and confusion of the victim/protagonist. The movie is so dispassionate, however, that I didn't really care about what was happening.
Page 1 of 10